THE ECONOMICS OF INSURGENCY |
April 28, 2010
THE ECONOMICS OF INSURGENCY
Name: CPT Mark Martin
Posting date: 4/28/10
Stationed in: Afghanistan
Hometown: New Hope, MN
Milblog: 270 Days in Afghanistan
One of the most significant issues ISAF Forces are working on is the elimination of Poppy Farms. Afghanistan produces over 90% of the world's supply of poppies. Poppies, a flowering plant used in the production of opium, are the crop of choice for the Taliban. They coerce or force farmers to produce this crop in order to finance their terror organization both here and across the globe. Suffice it to say, it has been a problem that we have been very aware of since the beginning of the war.
A recent MSNBC story highlights some of the efforts that the US has developed to impact this problem.
It should be a simple enough mission, right? Teach them how to grow wheat instead of poppies. After all, wheat is a sustainable crop, it feeds people, and it doesn't hurt anyone. The Ministry of Defense in Afghanistan has been a willing partner, publishing public service messages in the paper. The comic below shows a child walking in a field of wheat with a piece of bread next to a different field with plants that have skulls as flowers. The caption reads: Wheat is food. Poppies are poison.
Unfortunately, it isn't as simple as showing them how to farm other crops. The problem is that farmers can make almost 5 times the amount of money farming poppies as they do farming wheat. The farmers in Afghanistan are not bad people, but they are caught in a difficult economic situation. They are faced with a choice between farming poppies to feed their familes and avoid the wrath of the Taliban, or farming something else and taking a chance on whether they can market their crop as easily and for as much money. Most farmers who have farmed poppies continue to do so because it makes financial sense, and after all, there is a global market for it. As ugly as the truth is, it doesn't change the fact that in the United States, we have a drug culture which demands the product, thereby making us the architects of our own disaster.
As the war continues, it is more and more obvious that in order to effectively limit the enemy's
capabilities, our approach needs to focus first and foremost on their funding channels. Without money, the insurgency will die out, and Afghanistan will truly be free.